BACKGROUND: Racial disparities have been described in the use of a diverse spectrum of surgical procedures. The objectives of this study are to determine whether disparities also exist for the use of parenteral nutrition (PN) in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). METHODS: The U.S. Nationwide Inpatient Sample between 1998 and 2003 is analyzed to determine PN use among IBD inpatients diagnosed with protein-calorie malnutrition and assess whether use patterns differ by race and geographical region. RESULTS: The proportion of African American IBD admissions with protein-calorie malnutrition who receive PN is significantly lower than that in whites (19.9% vs 28.1%, P = .001), whereas there is no difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. After adjustment for gender, comorbidity, health insurance status, geographic region, and median neighborhood income, African Americans remain less likely than whites to receive PN (odds ratio [OR] 0.67; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.50-0.89), whereas the difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites is marginally significant (OR 0.65; 95% CI, 0.41-1.04). PN use varies geographically, with highest rates in the Northeast (44.3%) and lowest in the Midwest (17.3%). Uninsured patients are less than half as likely to receive PN as those with insurance (OR 0.46; 95% CI, 0.31-0.69). Compared with whites, Hispanics experience a longer time interval between admission and initiation of PN (3.5 vs 4.8 days, P = .02) and have higher rates of catheter-related complications (5.1% vs 12.2%, P = .04). CONCLUSIONS: Among IBD inpatients with clinically diagnosable malnutrition, PN use is lower among African Americans compared with whites. The underlying mechanisms of these racial variations merit further investigation.